Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jam-ups

I had to make a quick trip to Michigan on Thursday (it wasn't really all that quick). Taking I-94 across the state was interesting, because the good people of Michigan made a decision that, on the face of it, probably made a lot of sense. The speed limit most of the way on this two-lane highway (something I've never really gotten is how we talk about lanes; I guess I mean "four-lane highway," because there are two in each direction, but what do I care, I only have two lanes to worry about - the other side could have six lanes, making it an eight-lane highway, and that wouldn't do me a bit of good, would it?) is 70 for passenger cars, 60 for trucks.

Given the added danger of trucks, their increased energy, it may well be prudent to enforce a lower speed limit on them. But what happens in reality is, if there is sufficient truck traffic (and it would appear there is always sufficient truck traffic on I-94), they totally inhabit the right lane. Even if there are n times as many cars as trucks, the cars are effectively all shoved into the left lane (I use n because I don't know the right number). In effect, two traffic lanes become one, and car traffic can really get backed up.

In Illinois, there are no effective differences in the speed limits. Oddly enough, officially there are, something that has caused controversy in the past, but I've been driving here for years and have rarely seen any real difference. Of course, as I drive mostly in the Chicago area, rarely do I drive on highways in which there are only two lanes in each direction.

It's hard for me to believe that there isn't more risk in the split speed limits. If you try to drive correctly, that is, keep the left lane clear except to pass, then you're constantly changing lanes as you come up on slow-moving trucks. I saw several cars on I-94, drivers of which were obviously in a big hurry, weave in and out, skirting bumpers - does this strike anyone as safer than having the trucks and cars at the same speed? Sure didn't look like it to me.

2 comments:

Citizen Carrie said...

I hate most of I-94. Too much traffic and not enough lanes. We were planning a vacation once and narrowed it down to two destinations. I purposefully turned down one spot because I wanted to avoid I-94. (Although I admit the last several times I've driven it, it hasn't been that bad.)

It's funny you should mention truck drivers obeying the lower speed limit. I always thought of it in terms of them preferring to drive at lower speeds rather than obeying a speed limit. I suppose you're right.

I had a very frustrating trip to Lansing along I-96 last week, after it narrowed form three lanes to two. (Six lanes to four.) All of a sudden I had to touch my breaks as traffic jammed up, and for the next several miles I was lucky if I hit 65 mph. I think what happened was I came across a series of semi-trucks, and all of the trucks going 57 mph got into the left lane to pass the trucks that were going 55 mph. I was beginning to think that I'd read later on that the truckers were doing some sort of protest.

Somewhat off the subject, I do a lot of rural freeway driving. I'm not a speed demon. I've noticed over the last several months, even before gas hit $4.00 a gallon, that I've been passing a lot more cars on the freeway, which is amazing since I rarely go much faster than 70 mph unless I'm passing or if I need to keep up with the flow of traffic. Regardless, I'm not getting blown off the roads by semis like I used to.

Androcass said...

CC:

Yes, I was quite surprised that Michigan trucks seem to take the different speed limit quite seriously. In Illinois, it's pretty much "go for it," and very exciting to be driving along at 65 or so only to have one of the "knights of the road" come bearing down on your rear bumper. Very exciting, indeed.

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